The Twenty-Second in a Series of Sermons on the Epistle to the Hebrews
Several biblical writers tell us that the Christian life is like a race. The starting line is our conversion. The finish line is our death, hopefully after a long and full life, unless our Lord should return prior to our demise. As we run this race, we are to look ahead to the finish line–that inheritance which is ours in Jesus Christ. In chapter eleven the author of Hebrews told his readers that the Old Testament saints looked forward to that time when God fulfilled his promise through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In chapter twelve he now directs us to consider the goal which God has set before those of us living in the new covenant era. As he sets this goal before our eyes, he exhorts us not to hinder our own progress through carelessness, or by rejecting the place of godly discipline. It is Jesus who perfectly trusted in God’s promise and gave his life for our sins, thereby earning the title of the founder and perfecter of faith. Jesus not only fulfills God’s promise, he is God’s promise. Jesus is that one in whom we possess all the blessings promised to us by our gracious God. It is to him we look as we run the race.
We are continuing our series on the Book of Hebrews, and now we come to chapter 12, in which the author applies the message of chapter 11, the so-called “hall of faith” to the congregation which has just considered the names and exploits mentioned by the author. In Hebrews 11–one of the best known portions of the New Testament–the author has made the point that there is one covenant promise throughout the course of redemptive history. All those mentioned in the “hall of faith” believed that promise, though for them, the promise was not yet fulfilled. But now that Jesus Christ has come, what was promised to those listed in Hebrews 11 is a reality for all those who live in the era of a new and better covenant. The Old Testament saints trusted God’s promise, and now that Jesus Christ has come, they too have been made perfect, as have all those reading this letter who have placed their faith (trust) in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the creator of all things, and the redeemer of God’s people.
In the first half of chapter 12 (vv. 1-17), the author turns first to Christ’s work on our behalf in fulfilling that promise referred to in chapter 11 by suffering and dying for his people (vv. 1-2). In verses 3-11, the author takes up the necessity for Christians to endure under the hardship they were facing because they were Christians, and to realize that God disciplines his own because he loves us. This was an important word of encouragement to those in the original audience who are facing persecution from the civil authorities, and possibly from those whom they left behind in the synagogues. Then, in verses 12-17, the author exhorts us to persevere in that long and grueling race which is the Christian life.
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